Whatever, then, breaks this up is a blessing. No excitement can be so dangerous, so deadly, as this indifference. Better a thousand times the wild hurricane than the calm miasma. Better the stream which rushes impetuously over its banks, carrying with it devastation for a time, than the dead and foetid marsh. The one may be turned into a new channel, and made available as a power for advancing the interests of man, but the other is “evil, and only evil continually,” Whatever, therefore, we repeat it, tends in providence to destroy indifference, and induces people to listen with earnestness and attention to the truth,—be it the excitement of a storm or earthquake, of a great religious revival, or of domestic bereavement and sorrow,—whatever it be, yet is it a blessing if it prepares the soul to receive the seed of the gospel, by inducing men even to think seriously, as the first condition for their ultimately believing seriously.
But this excitement which alarms so many sober-minded people was not, after all, an element which vitiated the religious “movements” in the early ages of Christianity. There were rational Sadducees, learned scribes, and formal Pharisees, who were much displeased at the excitement of the multitude when Jesus made His triumphant entry into Jerusalem. But when our Lord was asked to rebuke them, He replied that the very stones would cry out if these were silent. Was there no excitement on the day of Pentecost when thousands were crying out, “What shall we do to be saved?” The preaching of the gospel was everywhere accompanied by such awakenings as arrested the attention of cities and nations. Would God it were so now!
But, in once more meeting this objection, we cannot help noticing the character of the persons who most generally urge it. How often does one hear from the lips of the intensely worldly-minded fears expressed at the danger of religious excitement! And if the symptoms of such a terrible state of mind manifest themselves in son or daughter, even in the form of thoughtfulness in regard to their duty to God, or of fear about their state, or doubts with reference to the manner in which they have been accustomed to spend their time and talents, how often does the very mother who bore them become herself thoughtful and concerned about her child! “She so much dislikes religious excitement. She likes cheerful Christians,—religious people now-a-days are so sad and gloomy,—she is really anxious about her poor daughter,” &c. And all this from persons who live in a constant whirl of excitement, to whose daily life excitement is essential, not as a means of temporary relief from severe thought and action, but as the very end of existence. And whence is their excitement derived? From the most contemptible and silly frivolities, from balls, parties, visits, and gossip without end—excitements utterly selfish, which materialise the soul, debase its tastes, enervate its powers, rendering it incapable